Opposition councillors furious with plans to close Powys leisure centres and swimming pools over the winter
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
Opposition councillors are set to “call in” and scrutinise a decision by the Powys administration to temporarily close several leisure centres and swimming pools over the winter.
Several councillors at the Powys County Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday, December 13 were furious with the decision and how it had been managed by the Liberal Democrat/Labour administration.
The closures of several leisure centres and swimming pool are needed due to the spike in energy costs.
Freedom Leisure is predicting that during the 2022/2023 financial year they will spend £287,000 over the £2.5 million contract it has with the council.
Chairman of the Learning and Skills, scrutiny committee, Cllr Gwynfor Thomas said: “The cabinet has made a decision and all the answers and arrangements are in place.
“You have a political choice of whether you wish to fund Freedom Leisure £287,000.
“The impact assessment is not fit for purpose, it’s not an urgent decision as talks have been going on for some time.
“I already have sufficient numbers to call this in, and I will do so, so that it has a proper scrutiny hearing.
“This is not how we should be treating the people of Powys.
Cllr Beverley Baynham who represents Presteigne where East Radnor leisure centre is located, said: “No consultations, no discussions just a done deal.
“How can a decision be taken at a cabinet meeting this morning when papers were not published until 6.06pm last night.
“This decision is being pushed through with not even 24 hours’ notice and no time for us to prepare and have a discussion.”
She added that the documents did not explain how the decision had been reached.
“This is an ill-thought-out decision why can’t the savings be shared across the board said Cllr Baynham.
Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies said: “This is a truly appalling way to run a council, to present this report at the very last minute.
“With central government support we maintained leisure services during Covid-19 (lockdowns), to blame the UK Government is simply unfair.”
He added that there had been “nothing” on the issues facing Freedom Leisure in the confidential financial briefing given to councillors following their full council meeting last Thursday, December 8.
Cllr Davies said: “Then you bounce this on to usyesterday and the impact assessment only arrived 10 minutes before the meeting started.
“There are clearly serious issues whether this is legal.”
Head of legal and democratic services, Clive Pinney said: “The process we have adopted is an appropriate one there is no need to have a consultation on a temporary closure.
“I can confirm that the agenda went out at the appropriate time.
“Because of the emergency nature of this it was unfortunate that the papers were delayed.
“As far as I’m aware there is no predetermination amongst cabinet who I’m sure they will confirm have kept an open mind and listened to everything that was said this morning.”
He added that he could send councillors a copy of the relevant part of the constitution that explains how the call-in process works.
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